Nine teams, including the 2019 fourth-placed Chintheche United FC, have pulled out of the 2020 Northern Region Football Association (NRFA) Simama and Sons (Simso) Premier League because of financial constraints.
The other eight teams are Zolozolo United FC, who finished fifth last season, Manyamula, Kajipoze, Kabwafu, Hewe, Kawaza, Mzimba Young Bullets and Lufita.
Zolozolo United general secretary Jason Chavula confirmed the news yesterday in an interview, saying it is sad that they will not take part this season because of sponsorship.
“We cannot do otherwise. Our sponsor has indicated that he has other commitments and cannot meet the team’s demands this season,” he said.
Chintheche United general Secretary Lupakisho Simwera said the team was relying on a sponsor who has indicated that he will not support it this season.
On Kabwafu FC’s unavailability, general secretary Stavens Zgambo said the decision follows Kabwafu Famers Trust (KFT) withdrawal of funding to the team.
“KFT have informed us that they don’t have enough money to continue sponsoring the team. In such a case, we will not be able to participate in any other competition this year, including the 2020 Simso Premier League,” he said.
Zgambo said Kabwafu players have been advised to join other clubs.
Kabwafu FC qualified for TNM Super League in 2012, but got relegated the same season.
They finished fourth in the 2016 NRFA Simama Premier League.
Asked on their decision to withdraw funding the team, KFT zonal chairperson Mathews Shawa assured that they will return to sponsor the team once they start realising good returns from tobacco sales.
He said: “The trust is made up of tobacco farmers, as you are aware, we did not make good tobacco sales in the recent market season.
“In such a difficult situation, we resolved that we stick to other very vital financial commitments rather than sponsoring the team. However, we can assure the public that we will resume sponsoring the team once we are financially stable.”
Two years ago, top teams Mchengautuwa and Fish Eagles disbanded due to financial problems.
Asked why Northern Region teams are disadvantaged, the region’s sports development officer Georgina Msowoya said most teams are sponsored by individuals.
She also said it is difficult for the teams to secure corporate sponsorship because most companies head offices are based in the other regions.
On the other hand, soccer analyst George Kaudza Masina has attributed the situation to lack of motivation because of poor package teams.
“Our leagues are more of social than competitive. Look at the prize mony they get. It’s pathetic. I am not surprised, therefore, that we can have such number of teams pulling out of the league,” he said.
But, football analyst Julius Mithi who is also Football Association of Malawi (FAM) football development sub committee executive member, questioned the leadership why they are failing to engage sponsors that can sponsor teams.
“Nine teams pulling out from the league is questionable. This just shows that the leadership has failed to sell the sport. How can they fail to engage other people to take over bankrolling the teams?” he said.
However, NRFA general secretary Masiya Nyasulu said they still have a good number of teams that expressed interest to participate in the league.
He said the 18 teams that will take part in the 2020 league are Chitipa Stars, Nthalire United, Baka City FC, Chilumba Barracks FC, Rumphi United, Mighty Rumphi Wanderers FC, Ng’onga FC, Ekwendeni United, Ekwendeni Hardknockers, Luwinga United, Bright Star FC, Chibwaka FC, Kande Stars, Kawalazi, Embangweni United, Favoured Stars, Kavukula FC and Raiply FC.
“We had 23 teams in total that expressed interest to participate in the league this season, but after thoroughly assessing their capabilities in terms of sponsorship, previous record and their financial status, we came up with this final list. So with the nine that pulled out, we still have a good number of,” Nyasulu said.
The 2020 season is scheduled to kick off on April 11 and registration fee has been maintained at K150 000 per team.
However, with the State of Disaster declared by President Peter Mutharika over the coronavirus, which has forced Football Association of Malawi and Malawi National Council of Sports postponing all sports activities, the kick off is likely going to change.
Ekwendeni Hammers were the previous champions and have since qualified for TNM Super League.
Southern and Central Region Football Leagues have said, so far, all the teams have confirmed that to play in the forthcoming season.